Ritchie Blackmore

The Evil Eye of Ritchie Blackmore

It is so easy to get a bad name

He behave so badly in hotels that he once even chased naked a cleaning lady into the lobby. Waving a big knife. "That makes them think" says Ritchie Blackmore. He gets furious when one of his band members makes a mistake and the Rainbow foreman occasionally allows an interview, he often walks away after the first question. This time, however, he sits on his talking chair and talks late into the night about his pursuit of perfection, his bad reputation and about... ghosts.

It is four o'clock in the morning Ritchie Blackmore has been speaking. For more than two hours. With his soft, dragging voice he tells about ghosts. A few meters further his driver has fallen asleep on a sofa. Ritchie, however, is still wide awake Indefatigable, although he did has performed that evening. He's in a good mood now. But that was different at the beginning of the conversation. Because mistakes were made during the concert. And they make him furious.
"I don't think," says Ritchie, "that you should bottle things up. So I say something about it after the concert. That is not always easily accepted. That can sometimes end in a fight."

"Look, if someone makes a mistake when he is doing his best I can be at peace with that. But if a musician makes a mistake because he is thinking about what to eat the next day, I will go beserk. Then I need at least five minutes to regain myself."

Ritchie Blackmore wants to reach the top. And according to him you desperately need the audience for that.

"You want the audience to be happy. They pay a lot of money to hear you. We have an enthusiastic audience that deserves a good concert. That's why I get very angry when I hear a band member play a wrong note."

"Not that I never make a mistake myself. Then I am also furious. The other band members are laughing. But they get angry again when I don't feel to do an encore. They don't understand that. But sometimes I have a day that I play so bad that I am ashamed of myself. And that is not because of the audience. I just can't."

"That's the misery of such a tour. You have to go on stage every day. I don't want to say that our music is art, but I still want to compare it to painting. If you don't have your day and the paint is bad on the canvas, then nobody asks you if you want to continue painting for a while?"

Ritchie Blackmore is a perfectionist. He also got the reputation for being a difficult person for that. That dates back to the period that he was in Deep Purple.

"I can only achieve something if there is optimal concentration. Everyone has to do their job well. During the last concert, for example, the boy who had to illuminate me with a spotlight did not have his thoughts. Instead of the spotlight following me, I had to. I had to run after the light.

Then I get annoyed and play badly. If someone doesn't do his best, he can better go. Then I will leave the credit to that person, otherwise it could damage his further career. I wear out quite a few musicians because of that. With Cozy Powell I had also reached the point where it was no longer possible. Although we have been really good friends."

Ritchie Blackmore is also very pleased with the replacements in Rainbow of drummer Cozy Powell and singer Graham Bonnet. "I have a good contact with them and they also have the same interest as I do. Joe Lynn Turner the singer is very educated. Also believes in ghosts just like me. And Bobby Rondinelli is like a brother to me. We travel together in one car. An atmosphere that I have hardly experienced before. With friends but not with musicians. But maybe we will have an argument in two years. That can change quickly for me."

Of course there is a lot of talk about me by the musicians that I have kicked out of the group. That is also a cause of my bad name. That does not mean, however, that Ritchie does not contribute equally hard to that bad name. Especially hotels would rather see him go than come.

"I sometimes want to go to hotels. But it is always the same. You sleep either above a disco, or next to a room where they have a party. And when you finally sleep, you will be woken up by a cleaning lady who want you to get out of your room to do her job. What tricks they have... Are they going to rattle buckets in the next room, or do they turn on a radio very loudly. I have kicked up a transistor radio like that. And once I ran completely naked after a cleaning lady, all the way to the lobby. Waving a large knife. That makes them think. Now I don't really need other people. I love my own company. I paint a little, watch TV and listen to music. People waste their time like that. They talk about unimportant things. A waste of my time. That's why I keep them at a distance. I don't answer their questions. It's really easy to get a bad name. Offstage I have no need to see human beings, but once on stage I need them more than ever."

Ritchie's method of ensuring that he can sit quietly in a restaurant or walk on the street does not make him widely popular. At the beginning of the conversation, he observed the audience for ten minutes with his black stinging eyes.

"It's my way of keeping people at a distance. I always wonder why people want to shake my hand. I look at them intently and then suddenly they don't feel like talking to me anymore. They recognize the 'evil eye' in me ....."

It brings Ritchie to a topic he likes to talk about: the occult.

"I really believe in ghosts. I've never seen one myself, but I do know people who have been there. I find it very oppressive and it also scares me very much, but it fascinates me terribly. I believe too that there is life after death. Without that conviction I could not live."

"In my own way I am also religious. Not based on the bible. Because I find it strange that people now believe in a book that was written 2000 years ago. But I feel that there is something that I do not think about a God in heaven, but to something in all of us. But this is not an easy subject. Many times people think I'm out of my mind when I talk about this. Not being taken seriously. But on some questions you never get an answer. For example, what am I supposed to imagine in an endless universe? All those scientific explanations, I think, are all excuses for something we can't comprehend and don't want to admit."

© Pieter Groenewold, Muziek Expres - September 1981